Simpson Manuscript Details of when Capitol Building burned, & temporary quarters sought

Excerpt from






Late Recording Secretary to the Governor


Roemer Printing Co., Montgomery, Ala, Printers


The second session of the Legislature, to meet in the Capitol at Montgomery, assembled on the 12th of November, 1849, and in one particular it was the most sensational session of the General Assembly ever held in the State. The body had been in session one month and two days, when on the 14th day of December the handsome State House building erected by the people of Montgomery caught fire during the day’s sitting, and in three hours the structure was a mass of ruins.

Painting of the Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama ca. 1850-1859 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

At one o’clock on that day the House was engaged on the call of the counties for the introduction of bills and petitions. The order was temporarily suspended to allow the consideration and second reading of a series of resolutions, introduced by Mr. Elevens, of Dallas, to abolish the white basis of representation. Mr. Jones offered a motion that 133 copies of the resolution be printed for the use of the House, Pending this question, the roof of the House of Representatives was discovered to be on fire. The House journal of that session does not show that the House adjourned. The reference to the fire in the journal of the House for that day’s session is the following, which follows the proceedings:

“Note by the Clerk: Pending the above motion, at one o’clock and fifteen minutes P. M., an alarm of fire was given. The roof of the Capitol was discovered to be in flames, and in three hours from the first alarm the broken walls alone remained. The public records of the various departments were saved and the greater part of the furniture. The fire originated over the Representative Hall.”

The Senate journal disposes of the fire in the following statement in the opening paragraph of the proceedings of the session of the 15th, which is: “The State Capitol, after adjournment yesterday, having been consumed by fire, the Senate, pursuant to a notice by the President thereof, met in the saloon of the Montgomery Hall at 10 o’clock.”

The Montgomery Hall was then one of the most famous hotels in the State, and occupied the corner at present the site of the Post Office and Government building.

The House of Representatives met on that day in the ball room of the same hotel.

Burning of the Alabama State Capitol Building December 14, 1849


Both bodies received communications from citizens of Montgomery tendering apartments for the use of the State as temporary quarters for the Legislature and State officers. One communication was from Messrs. Wm. L. Yancey, Hugh W. Henry and J. Whiting, tendering to the Legislature’ the use of the Presbyterian Church. Messrs. F. Bugbee, C. T. Pollard, J. E. Belser, George Goldthwaite and Thos. S. Mays, on the’ part of the citizens, tendered the following quarters to the State:

The Presbyterian Church and adjoining chapel, rooms at the Exchange Hotel, the Odd Fellows Hall and rooms at the Montgomery Hall and at the Madison House. Rev. H. Talbird, pastor of the Baptist Church, tendered the use of that structure. Messrs. J. P. Saffold, E. C. Hannon and John Powell tendered the use of the Methodist Episcopal Church. A telegraphic communication was received from C. C. Langdon, Mayor of Mobile, tendering the use of the Barton Academy, in that city, for the Cessions of the Legislature.

Exchange Stables, located behind the Exchange Hotel in Montgomery, Alabama.ca. 1880-1909 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

These several communications were read and Mr. Lorenzo James, of Clarke, offered a resolution to raise a joint committee to examine the various rooms tendered to the General Assembly, and if in the opinion of the committee, the rooms could be prepared for the dispatch of public business, the committee was authorized to contract for said rooms and was further authorized to make arrangements for the accommodation of the various State officers. This joint committee was made up as follows, after the adoption of the resolution: On the part of the Senate, Messrs. Ware, Winston and Abercrombie, and on the part of the House, Messrs. James, Watts, Rather, Hill and Bridges. The committee was to report on Monday, the 17th.

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